A total of 111 students competed from 31 schools in the countywide spelling bee on Saturday. But spelling bees are all about the letters, not the numbers.
After 2½ hours of spelling, sixth-grader Jakob Palmer from Edison Elementary School was declared the champion of the Buchanan County bee. Sixth-grader Collin Gentry from Eugene Field Elementary School came in second.
Jakob and Collin, incidentally, also placed first and second in the elementary division. Seventh-grader Spencer Black from Bode Middle School placed first in the seventh- and eighth-grade division. Eighth-grader Marisa Baugh from DeKalb Middle School placed second in that division.
Spelling bee coordinator Karen Heyde-Lipanovich said she still remembers the word that eliminated her in sixth grade: isle.
“Back in that day, they didn’t tell you it was a homonym,” she said. “You just had to spell.”
Ms. Heyde-Lipanovich said missing a word can be an emotional moment for students when they are in front of a crowd.
“It sticks with these kids,” she said. “They will never, ever forget how to spell that word from then on.”
While most people can easily spell visually, Ms. Heyde-Lipanovich believes that spelling words aurally requires a different mindset entirely.
“Seriously, these kids have a skill, to be able to stand up and spell,” she said.
She also said that in recent years, there has been a greater emphasis on the origin of the word as an indication of how it should be spelled. Ms. Heyde-Lipanovich said she used to practice with large books and memorize words. Now, students access the computer.
“Now they divide things into, ‘These are words that came from French, these are words that came from Italian, these are words that came from Latin,’” she said. “So you actually see the common things in the language.”
The second-place finisher, Collin Gentry, and his mother said he didn’t have to practice much. Spelling seems to come to him naturally.
“He won at his school and he was reluctant to compete at the citywide. So we didn’t get much of a chance (to practice,)” his mother, Susan Gentry, said.
Susan and Collin’s grandmother, Sue, said both Collin and his brother, William, are gifted. William competed in a math competition last weekend.
“(Collin) loves robotics and computers,” Susan said. “He likes putting things together.”
Jakob and Collin will advance to the Northwest Missouri Regional Spelling Bee, scheduled at St. Francis Xavier School on March 2. That event is sponsored by the News-Press.